If you enjoyed Spike TV’s reality show DEA then you’re in luck; those jack-booted Drug Enforcement Agents have returned for a second season. However, this time the series takes place in Newark, New Jersey, which they claim is “a central front for the DEA.” The new season has all the storm trooper tactics you’d expect from DEA, complete with interrogations centered on classic “good cop/bad cop” nonsense.
According to the narrator, Newark is where they “do battle in a powder keg of money, guns and drugs.” DEA fuses the high-adrenaline elements of Cops with the paranoia and backstabbing of The Mole. So if you’re jonesin’ to find out how the law enforcement operates, than look no farther than Spike TV. This new season promises to be a hit in penitentiaries and other criminal institutions throughout the country.
Although the show claims that the DEA spends large amounts of time doing surveillance, that is hardly what is portrayed onscreen. Instead, DEA depicts a world where suspects make immediate and irreversible mistakes the instant they come under the watchful eyes of the special agents. Like TV cowboys they always get their man. However, it’s worth wondering how these officers feel about fighting in this nation’s longest war: a costly endeavor in which they are so clearly on the losing side. What reinforces the “war” metaphor is the manner in which these predominantly white teams refer to primarily black neighborhoods as “enemy territory” and occasionally will break into dehumanizing rants about how “these people are all scum bags.”
The first season of DEA followed a group of agents as they made busts in and around Detroit, Michigan. It seemed like a cheap shot to pick our nation’s only black metropolis in which to film this particular brand of “reality” show. Not long ago the Motor City hosted the World Series, the All Star Game and Superbowl XL without a snag, but recently the national media has been fixated on Detroit’s mayoral scandal, along with its housing and employment crisis which are now being felt by the nation writ large. Forbes Magazine in particular chose Detroit as the United States’ “Most Miserable City.” It’s important to note that Forbes’ core readers are the bankers who got us into this financial crisis, so thanks Forbes, go fuck yourself.
The War on Drugs has provided the DEA with enormous resources, however in this war of attrition it’s the drug manufacturers who have the real edge. Just as soon as the DEA cracks down on one area the battle intensifies in another. The drug war functions like a Mobius loop; as one drug goes out of fashion another becomes all the rage and law enforcement is never quite able to keep up. This is further complicated by the refinement of existing drugs, such as crystal meth and high-grade marijuana.
In both seasons agents break into the homes of dealers with the intent of getting them to flip on their suppliers. Of all the things these agents enjoy, flipping up the food chain is at the top of their list. To them the criminal must be complicit in shoring up law enforcement; they must acquiesce to the will of the DEA.
Even the most cursory viewer will acknowledge that Spike’s programming often centers on the lowest common denominator. In this case poor folks are filmed while they get busted while gunslinger cops crack jokes in the background. In fact, reality shows are generally all about taking the easy route; there’s no need for a writer, script or imagination. Just rake in the benefits of low overhead while filming someone else’s misery.
While the show focuses on a group of high-tech narcs, it’s hardly the agency’s first foray into propaganda. Target America: Eyes open to the damage drugs cause was the DEA’s “traveling museum” which attempted to illustrate a connection between the drug war and the war on terror. The operating assumption behind the exhibit was that terrorists need narcotic sales to fund their activities; thus, by extension, buying or selling drugs promotes terrorism. Ever wonder what happened to all those old anti-drug commercials? They were recycled for Target America, just as portions of DEA will very likely be recycled for future anti-drug campaigns.
DEA plays every Tuesday evening at 10:00 Easter time on the Spike network.